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My fondest memories growing up are the ones of me learning to bake in my Nana’s kitchen. She taught me to make Italian cookies, peanut butter balls, almond squares and so much more. Leaning to use an electric mixer, grease the pans, and of course do the dishes. She taught me life lessons of domestication in such a way that it made me fall in love with the art of baking. That was just the way she was though, in all aspects of life. She was my Nana, my mentor, and my best friend.
So when I got married she gave me one of the best gifts I could have ever asked for, her cookbook! Called The Joy Cooking, this cookbook is stained, the pages are yellowed from age, and the binding is held together with duct tape, however this is my most coveted cookbook because each stain brings a memory of my Nana back to me and the duct tape well that’s just an extra signature that it was hers. It a prized possession that never leaves my kitchen, family members have asked to borrow it and I can’t stand to part with it so the only thing I can commit to is photo copying the recipes needed.
However with the cookbook, also comes the responsibility of doing a lot of the family baking. There are two main desserts that she always brought to holiday parties, her Italian cookies and her almond bars. My uncle will usually take on the Italian cookies, thankfully because my kids eat up the dough so fast that I never get any cookies actually cooked. I am in charge of the almond bars, and they have always been a favorite of both my brother and I.
As soon as Thanksgiving is over I immediately start to think about my holiday meal planing and all that comes with it, from the almond squares that need to go to parties, to decorating cookies with the kids, and Christmas dinner. Once my food list is sketched out, my first stop is Big Lots
. I remember several years ago, a Big Lots opened in our town and I was ecstatic.
I’m a shopper, I love to spend time putting around stores that have a wide array of products. Big Lots not only has so many things to look at, they also are always getting new and fun merchandise. I can find a unique gift for a friend, a beautiful serving dish, and my baking ingredients all in one place.
Last week I grabbed a coffee and set out on a Big Lot’s shopping trip, I was able to pick up a couple Purex pans with covers that will work out perfectly for transporting all my baked good to parties. I also found an adorable “I love baking” spatula, 2 Christmas hand towels, a holiday sign that I fell in love with, a snowman plate, and pretty Christmas mason jar mug.
*Disclosure: styles and assortment vary by store*
All this was before I even stepped into the huge grocery section throughout the middle of the store! I was able to find everything I needed to make the Almond Squares for this weekend. Sugar, Vanilla, Shredded Coconut, everything I had on my shopping list and everything was within my budget! This is why my Big Lots is my first stop when planning for the holidays, I am able to get so many high quality ingredients and they’re all at a great price.
Once I got home on a shopping high from the great values I found, it was baking time! The only thing that trumped my fun shopping finds that day, was pouring the almond extract into a bowl and making my entire kitchen smell like Nana.
These are a delicious dessert idea, I’m sharing the recipe in the midst of the holiday baking rush. So make sure you give these a try!
Nana’s Almond Squares
3/4 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
Shredded Coconut to top
Preheat oven at 350 degrees
Melt butter, then mix together the butter and sugar.
Add eggs and mix for several minutes, until creamy.
Add salt, vanilla, almond extract, and flour, and mix until well combined.
Pour into a greased pan, sprinkle top with shredded coconut, and cook for 40 minutes.
Be sure to check out the large variety of baking and meal preparation items at Big Lots. I’d love to hear what you love to make during the holidays!